Thursday, August 23, 2012

Michael Kelly : democracy is 'sinister'

Michael Kelly in the Scotsman, referring to the prospect of a Devo Max option in the independence referendum -

"As Lord Wallace put it on Newsnight on Tuesday, leaving a club is a matter for you alone. If, however, you want to remain in the club but change the rules, all 
the other members are entitled to a say. That shuts that one off."

Well, no it doesn't, actually. Rule changes in a club are often rather good things, and they generally come about because one or more members of the club propose them. Nobody is disputing that the details of Devo Max would have to be negotiated with the UK government after any referendum vote, but what putting the issue to the electorate does is recognise that it's Scotland as a nation (ie. a member of the club) that is allowed to put its hand up and say it thinks the time has come to change the rules. In what sense is that inferior to leaving matters to back-room discussions between politicians?

Because it makes it easier for Wallace and his colleagues in the UK government to circumvent the popular will, presumably.

Incidentally, neither is anyone disputing that the UK government could completely ignore a consultative vote in favour of Devo Max - although if it did so, the Scottish people would then be free to draw their own conclusions about whether their democratic aspirations are any longer consistent with membership of "the club".

Kelly goes on -

"But a more sinister aspect to the platform on which the referendum will be fought by the nationalists emerged this week from the musings of Pat Kane. “Hue” (or is he “Cry”?) tends to use rather too many words for what he wants to say. Through the obfuscation, what I took from it was that the institutions, policies and practises of the post-independence Scotland that the SNP will sketch out in their referendum manifesto need simply be no more than a working drawing. This can be subject to major revision or even scrapping after we find ourselves cast loose from the UK.

Thus, while he condemns the First Minister’s scheme to fiddle with the SNP’s stance on Nato as “not a principled or honourable position”, Kane does not see it as fatal to the pro-independence camp. That is because – and here is the sleight of hand – everything would be up for grabs at the general election in Scotland that would follow independence.

That has been my concern all along. While the SNP are busy amending what voters have seen as its traditional stances – on the Queen, the euro, the pound, Nato, currency regulation – removing anything which might scare the voters, they cannot deliver on these promises even if they want to."

It seems that the 'concern' Kelly is expressing here can be summed up as follows : that an independent Scotland will, shockingly, be a democratic state. In other words, if the majority of the electorate vote to leave NATO in a post-independence election, that vote will actually have an effect. Crikey, what could be more 'sinister' than that? Presumably Kelly would prefer "Labour conference" style democracy, in which delegates are free to vote for higher pensions or nuclear disarmament to their hearts' content, because it won't make a blind bit of difference to actual policy.

Curiously, Kelly seems to feel that voters ought to be deeply concerned that they themselves will make the wrong decisions in years to come, and should therefore vote to deny themselves the ability to commit those future blunders. However, if he really wants the SNP to guarantee that certain proposed features of an independent Scotland's constitution will be guaranteed for all time and will not be revisable by so grubby a process as a democratic vote, this has some interesting ramifications. Presumably when Labour claim that Scotland must stay in the union to ensure a social democratic future of milk and honey for the whole UK, we're entitled to demand they actually 'deliver' that future by altering the UK constitution to ensure that the electorate in middle England isn't allowed to vote for anything other than social democracy? Because it has to be said that, as things stand, UK elections have rather a habit of producing right-wing governments.


  1. Michael Kelly still thinks that the unionists have to stop the SNP putting a devo-max question on the ballot paper. Quite funny really.

    It's actually a lot simpler than that. The SNP have to resist all calls for a single question until they put the referendum bill before the Scottish Parliament and the LibLabCon alliance fails to amend it with a second question option.

    All the calls for the SNP to agree to a single question from the unionists are to try and ensure the SNP is party to the failure to include a devo-max option.

    The unionists don't want the SNP to have clean hands when going for the devo-max vote or for the devo-max option to be refused in public by the unionists in the Scottish Parliament.

    The reason Michael Kelly is upset about the idea of elections after Scottish independence is that the unionists are still treating this like a Scottish election where parties have manifestos and become the Government after winning.

    They still haven't got their heads round the fact that this is a one issue vote. Independence or the Union. After that Scotland will decide its own future in Scottish Parliamentary elections.

  2. Kelly is from Glasgow labour and does't do democracy. No surprise there.

    Off off topic but if you read the comments on the BBC report on Andy Murray's US Open draw you will see just how much great british support he has kept since winning a gold medal for the ungrateful mob.